Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services – A business case for re/insurance (Expertise Publication)

Building societal resilience (icon)
A platic bag in the ocean (photo)

In recent years, the world has made considerable progress in understanding the impact of climate change. There is, however, less understanding of the impact of biodiversity on our lives and the economy, although it is just as important.

Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (BES) underpin our daily lives and many of our products and services, from water and food to countless other resources. An estimated 55% of global GDP is moderately or highly dependent on BES at present, yet a study by Swiss Re Institute reveals that a staggering one-fifth of countries globally already exhibit weakened land ecosystem services on more than one-third of their territory.

Understanding the extent and impact of this decline and the associated risks is key to minimising further damage. This is why Swiss Re Institute has created the BES Index. Bringing together masses of data and research, it provides a detailed, kilometre-by-kilometre view of the state of biodiversity and ecosystem services in any given location.

The index for the first time gives the re/insurance industry the possibility to incorporate BES data into their risk assessment, thus helping to preserve BES, which are vital to societies’ resilience and a sustainable future.

The need to maintain the strength of ecosystems has become especially apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the largest potential reservoirs of future zoonotic diseases is in the rainforests of our world, but through accelerating deforestation we are making swift inroads into these habitats. Linked with soaring globalisation and urbanisation as well as risky nutrition patterns, this is creating high-speed routes for future pandemics directly into our major cities.1

Thus, as COVID-19 shows the potential cost of disrupting the delicate balance between humans and nature, it could become a sentinel.

Expertise publication: Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

1 IPBES (2020). Workshop Report on Biodiversity and Pandemics of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. IPBES secretariat, Bonn, Germany.